Back To School Prayer Challenge, Day 7: A Student of Joy

joyfulstudent

“For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!”
~Psalm 92:4-5

“Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.”
~Melba Colgrove

Well, we made it! The last day of our prayer challenge. My kids start back to school tomorrow morning! I wanted to end with praying for joy because this school year should start with smiles and excitement…not sadness and fear. Joy really is an umbrella for so many things – thankfulness, gratefulness, love, etc. So when I was thinking about the joy that I want my kids to have this year, more than anything, I wanted them to embrace the joy of being ABLE to go to school – they are healthy, intelligent, independent, and school is a safe place for them to learn and grow. That’s not the case in other areas of the world.

To stop and consider the thought of my children having to walk hours to get to school and back, or needing them to work instead of going to school because it’s the difference between eating and starving. Many children risk their very life to go to school – girls in countries where education is only for the boys. Heart breaking. And I complain about having to make their lunch each morning?! I am so blessed to GET to make their lunch and take them to school without any concern! So I want my kids to be full of joy over the freedom they enjoy. And, as so many other things we’ve prayed about this week, that joy starts with us. If we face each day with joy, it’s going to spread to our kids. So let’s be purposeful with our joy! And let’s help our children be purposeful about it as well – when they get home from school, ask them to tell you about something great that happened, or something that made them smile. Encourage them to look for those little things each day, and to do things for others that will bring them joy!

Obviously, joy is something that comes more easily for certain kids, and can be a lot more work in others. I have a friend whose daughter exudes joy 24/7. She’s literally just happy all the time…well, not ALWAYS, but MOST of the time. For her, joy is just a part of who she is. A child like that can help us see the joy in every circumstance. Other kids are naturally more cynical, and finding joy is going to take a little more effort, but it’s worth it! So let’s pray today that our kids – naturally joy-filled or not – will find plenty to be joyful about this year. And let’s pray that we’ll remember to be a joyful example to them.

May God bless you and each of your children as they begin this new school year! It’s my prayer for each of you that it is the BEST year yet!

 

 

Back To School Prayer Challenge, Day 6: A Self-Controlled Student

self_control
“Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.”
~Author Unknown

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
~2 Timothy 1:7

Self control. Is there anything parents long for more in our young children than self control? Any mom that has witnessed the tantrum of a three year old over the smallest thing — knows that self control is a huge milestone! But, while it may get less ridiculous with age, self control is usually a life-long struggle. So today, we’ll be praying that our kids are able to show self-control in school this year.

My daughter is five, going on eighteen. The other day, while shopping at Target, she walked up to me with a training bra on a hanger. She says “Hey mom, I’m not totally sure, but I think that I might be close to needing one of these!”. I wish you could’ve seen her – the hanger itself was wider than her shoulders – it looked hilarious. Rebekah is a tiny girl with a giant personality. It’s one of the things that I absolutely love about her! But I know, as she starts kindergarten, that she will probably get in trouble because of that personality! She has a really hard time withstanding the temptation to talk – when she shouldn’t. And when she gets angry, her toes curl under, her knees lock, and she hits her boiling point. We talk with her about self control and we try to help her get it right, but most of the time, she gives in the temptation to melt-down or say one more thing.

It is my prayer though, that the Lord will help her follow the rules in her classroom, listen to her teacher, and respect her classmates. All of those things will take self control. It’s a different set of challenges with older children – they need self control when they have disagreements with friends, don’t agree with the ref’s call in their basketball game, or are dating someone. Instead of praying for each and every potential situation they may face where self control is needed, let’s pray that the Lord will hold them close to the values and beliefs they have been taught at home. We want the values to win out. So if Rebekah is tempted to talk while the teacher is talking, I want her to remember that we’ve taught her to respect her elders. When she gets angry about doing her homework, I want her to remember that the Bible says to obey your parents. I could go on, but you understand.

Praying today that our kids will choose self control over the temptation to do the wrong thing. Tomorrow we’ll be praying for our kids to be joyful this year!

Back To School Prayer Challenge, Day 5: A Student of Compassion

helpen out a friend
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
~Dalai Lama

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,
kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and,
if one has a complaint against another,  forgiving each other;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

~Colossians 3:12-13

Today, we’ll be praying that our children have compassion this year. What does compassion look like at school? The first thing that comes to mind is the hot-button issue of bullying. Everyone is always talking about bullies, and how to make your kid “bully-proof”. There’s no question that it seems to be a problem that has gotten out-of-hand, but is helping our child avoid bullying where we should stop? I don’t think so.

I read an article a long time ago that basically suggested that it’s not enough to have a bully-proof kid. What you want is a kid that refuses to accept ANYONE being bullied. But that’s not a reality in our schools these days. If Bobby gets to lunch without the school bully hassling him for his lunch money, he doesn’t really care if Nick is the one who gets picked on instead. Because hey – it’s not him, right?? Wrong. A compassionate child wouldn’t be okay with anyone being bullied. It’s my prayer that my child will have so much compassion for those who are bullied, that they will stand up for them and actually try to stop it.

Can you imagine what that would do to bullying? Take your typical school yard fight – what if all the kids standing around watching were actually actively intervening on behalf of the bullied kid? No school yard bully would be able to continue in a compassionate culture like that.

Maybe your child’s school doesn’t have much of a bullying problem. But compassion can mean so many more things. It can be a willingness to help a discouraged classmate with their work that they don’t understand. It can mean a hug and high five when someone does well on a test. It can be helping someone pick up their books that they dropped in the hallway. So many ways to care for others if you are looking through the lens of compassion.

So let’s pray that our kids would have a heart for others at school – and look for ways to help, encourage, defend and show Jesus to them. As with so many other things, learning to have compassion starts at home. Pray that the Lord will help you teach compassion to your kids by modeling it in  your own life, and giving them opportunities to practice it regularly.

Do you remember a time compassion was shown to you in school? If so, take some time and share that story with your child. When I was in 5th grade, I got braces. By the second day, my teeth were so sore, eating was really painful. I remember crying as I tried to eat my lunch. After lunch was over and we were back in class, I was paged on the loudspeaker to come to the office. When I got there, the principal called me over to her desk, where she had several different muffins and some jello for me! She didn’t have to do that, and I didn’t expect it, but it was an act of compassion that I really appreciated that day. And still remember!

Tomorrow, we’ll be praying for our kids to have self-control this year. ;)

Back To School Prayer Challenge, Day 4: A Student of Commitment

student

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do,
long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
~Author Unknown

“And do not grow weary in doing good,
for in due season, you shall reap – if you do not lose heart.”
~Galatians 6:9

These last four days of the prayer challenge, we’ll be praying specific values/character traits for our kids as they go back to school. Today’s trait is being committed. Committed is defined as “to pledge or engage oneself“. Pretty straight forward! It’s my desire to see my kids take on this school year with a level of commitment that promises their best.

My two school-aged children are both naturally competitive. I don’t know where they got that from! ;) But they both have a tendency to get VERY wrapped up in perfect grades, getting every answer right, being the best. My daughter literally taught herself to read through pure determination….because…wait for it…her older brother had the audacity to learn to read before her. Ha! But, as their mom, I know that it’s inevitable that they will run into something they struggle with. Maybe division, or grammar, or P.E., but there will be something. So even though they are doing really well right now, I still try to emphasize constantly that all I want is their BEST. If my kids are committed to giving their best, then I will always be proud of the result. That means I’ll be just as proud of an A+ on a test, as I am of a C- that they got on something they struggled with.

So let’s pray for our children this year, that regardless of what is thrown at them – they will be committed to doing their best. Even when they are frustrated, or nervous, tired or overwhelmed — pray that they will push through. And what goes hand-in-hand with that is our ability as parents to offer encouragement and motivation when needed. So let’s also pray that the Lord will help us know the right words to say when our children need encouragement.

Tomorrow, we’ll be praying that our children will be compassionate this school year. See you then!

Back To School Prayer Challenge, Day 3: Ourselves

child and parent
“Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
~Proverbs 22:6

“It kills you to see them grow up.
But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.”
~Barbara Kingsolver

Before we get to the days where we pray specific things for our children for this school year, I wanted to take some time to pray about the outside influences on them: teachers, classmates, and now us. Moms (and dads), sometimes we just need some prayer too, don’t we? As excited as my kids are to head to school next week, I am not looking forward to the early mornings, rushing to get them to school on time, making sure homework and school projects are completed, making lunches (ugh), and keeping up with any extracurricular activities they might be doing. It can sometimes seem like a VERY long nine months. And that’s when things are normal.

But what if you have a child that is not enjoying school? When I was in sixth grade, I hated the school I was attending. I didn’t know anyone, the teachers seemed mean, I was overwhelmed with lockers, schedules, switching classes, homeroom, etc. I worked myself up into a stomach ache almost every single morning before school. I remember sitting in the car begging my mom to let me stay home — she made me go. In hindsight, I’m glad she made me…I survived the year and got used to things. But I’m sure that wasn’t easy for my mom – dealing with my tears and a stomach ache brought on by pure stress and anxiety in an 11-year old. Fast forward 20+ years, and I had my six year old son in tears each morning, not wanting to go to school because he was going to miss me. Plunge a knife into my heart and then just stir. So hard. Part of me wanted to scoop him up in my arms, tell him he never had to be away from me again, and drive him right back home. The other part of me wanted him to suck it up and stop because it was killing me! I made him go anyway. And I cried many tears as I drove away each morning.

So clearly, the school year doesn’t affect JUST our kids. It can be a source of excitement, pride, sadness, frustration, anger….you name it…for us. So parents, let’s take some time today and pray for us. Maybe you want to focus on being more patient with your kids this year when they’re working on homework. Maybe you want to be more involved in helping at the school, but need more energy and focus to do it.  Sometimes we just need a simple prayer of reliance on the Lord to get us through those mornings where we are so tired, that the coffee will never be strong enough, or those evenings, when bedtime never seems to happen on time. I’ll leave that to you today – talk to the Lord about what you need this year. And if you’re stressing over making lunches for the kids, here’s a list of some great ideas that I’m going to try:

http://www.peanutblossom.com/blog/2013/08/lunchbox-recipes.html/

Tomorrow, we’ll be praying for our children to be committed students this year. Have a great day!!

 

Back To School Prayer Challenge, Day 2: Classmates & Friends

schoolfriends

“There’s something about childhood friends that you just can’t replace.”
~Lisa Whelchel

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
~Romans 12:10

When I was in 5th grade, I sat by a new student. She happened to share my name, which was a pretty common thing. I was Jennifer C. and she was Jennifer T. We couldn’t stand each other.

I remember complaining to the teacher about having to grade her quizzes – she wrote REALLY small, and I had a hard time reading it. She complained to the teacher that I was too loud and she couldn’t concentrate on her tiny handwriting work. The teacher laughed both of us off and mumbled something about us ending up best friends. Ha! Never.

By the end of 5th grade, we were inseparable. Even referred to as “the Jens”. I don’t even remember how we ended up friends. I got braces that year, so maybe Jen took pity on me. I don’t know. But we did end up best friends. And it’s a friendship that took us through middle school, and into high school. As we attended different schools, life got in the way, but we still had a special place in each others heart. So many good memories were forged from a rocky beginning.

Every encounter your son or daughter has with their classmates could be the beginning of a good friendship. You never know! Even if it’s not positive in the beginning, it can turn around. So today, let’s pray for our children’s classmates this year, and the relationships they’ll form.

  • Let’s pray for these kids to respect each other, even when there are differences.
  • Let’s pray that the Lord will lead your child to a good friend, and that they will be a blessing to each other.
  • Since any friendship is going to have rough spots, let’s pray today that when our child and their friends go through disagreements or fights, that they will seek to make things right, forgive, and learn from the experience.
  • We’ve all experienced peer pressure, and it presents itself in different ways at different ages. Let’s pray that our children will do what they know is right, stand confident in those decisions, and that their friends will back them up instead of trying to tear them down.
  • One of my dear friends from college shared with me that whenever her girls come home from school talking about a new friend, her first question is “does he/she love Jesus?” – what a great way to keep our kids focused on what is important. Let’s pray that the Lord will provide friends that DO love Jesus. And if not, we’ll pray that our children will tell them about loving Jesus!

Did you have an unusual start to a friendship when you were a kid? Or even as an adult? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Tell me in the comments below.

Day 3, we’ll be praying for…US!

 

 

Back To School Prayer Challenge, Day 1: Teachers

teaching

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works,
and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,”
~Titus 2:7

“The calling of the teacher.
There is no craft more privileged.
To awaken in another human being powers,
dreams beyond one’s own;
to induce in others a love for that which one loves;
to make of one’s inward present their future;
that is a threefold adventure like no other.”
~George Steiner

 

As we prepare for the school year, we are caught up in making sure our kids are ready, making sure WE’RE ready! Ha!

So it’s easy to forget to be praying for the person who is going to be spending hours each day with your child – the teacher.

Your child’s teacher is preparing for 9 months of teaching a classroom full of kids he or she hasn’t met before. Each child will have their own strengths and weaknesses, and come from their unique background. It is no simple task for a teacher to teach those kids all year and try to ensure that each child improves, learns, and excels. So with that said, where do we start? How should we pray for our children’s teachers? Here are some suggestions:

  • First of all, pray for their home life with their families. We all know that circumstances at home affect us even when we’re not at home. A struggling marriage, a sick child — these things can weigh on a teacher’s shoulders, and it’s impossible to NOT bring it into the classroom in some way. So pray for their home. Pray that their relationships will remain strong, that their family will be healthy and that there will be balance and peace in the home.
  • Pray for encouragement throughout the year. Any job, no matter how tough, it always easier to face when you have encouragement behind you. Pray that your child’s teacher will receive encouragement from their colleagues, parents and their own families. Pray that at the end of each day, even the really LONG ones, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and that their work is meaningful.
  • Pray for their classroom. That proper rules will be set up and enforced consistently. That the kids will respond well and listen to their teacher. Pray that there will be a culture of respect in the classroom, that the teacher will have patience with each child, and that they will see each boy and girl through compassionate eyes.
  • Finally, pray for their teaching! Pray that they’ll get through all the content they need to during the year, and that they’ll be able to communicate it effectively to their students. Pray for creative approaches that will help keep the children’s attention, and even inspire them. Also, pray for wisdom as the teacher encounters each child and their learning differences.

As you can see, there is plenty to pray about for your child’s teacher this year. This is not an exhaustive list – you may think of other things to pray for. Please do! Regardless what you come up with as your prayer list, just carve out 5 minutes today and go before the Lord for this teacher. There’s nothing that says you have to stop there either! Pray for the rest of the faculty, the staff and the administration. They all have quite a challenge ahead of them as the new school year starts.

Tomorrow, we’ll be praying for our kid’s friends and classmates!

Back To School Prayer Challenge

2/3 of my kids will be starting school one week from Monday. Wow, summer flew by!
And amidst all the chaos of preparing for school, buying school supplies, anticipating a new routine, and making sure clothes still fit, it hit me today that it would be a VERY good idea to put in some prayer time for the upcoming year.

My oldest is starting second grade. I’ve been hoping that he will be as focused this year as he was last year, even after the newness of school wears off.

My sweet girl is starting kindergarten…and she doesn’t seem old enough at ALL! Actually, she’s more than ready, she just doesn’t LOOK old enough. ;) And I find myself hoping she’ll find good friends, and that her teacher will help her LOVE school.

I can hope all I want, but it would be better to place these hopes (and the worries) at the Lord’s feet. So I’m going to try to do a 7-day Back To School Prayer Challenge next week. It will start on Monday, August 11th, and end on Sunday, August 17th. If you’d like to follow along as a way to help pray for your kids’ school year, I’d love to have the company!

You can even help me as I put it together by answering a question for me:

What is one hope you have for your child for the 2014-15 school year? Are you hoping he’ll find a best friend? Are you hoping she’ll enjoy reading more? Are you hoping there will be less fighting over homework? Give me one hope! Thanks!

 

 

Three

Dear Daniel,

Today (January 11th), is your birthday. It’s hard to believe you are three already! We’ve watched you grow through pictures, and progress reports. The latest report describes you as having broad shoulders, a chubby belly, and that you are all boy. :) They say you are shy around strangers…and I remind myself to expect you to be shy when we meet you.

Daniel, I know you don’t know us yet. But we have been loving you from thousands of miles away for many months. We are waiting for the day we get to meet you in person…and the day we get to bring you home to our family. Your brother and sister talk about you all the time – they even have “gifts” wrapped up for you (some of their toys they think you’ll like). Your daddy prays for you each night. Your bed is made, clothes folded and put in the dresser.

All that is missing is you.

I wish with all my heart that you were celebrating your 3rd birthday with us, but I promise that this coming year will be full of celebrations – including your Gotcha day. We can’t wait, sweet boy.

In the meantime, keep growing, learning and loving others. But don’t grow too quickly – we know all too well how quickly time passes, and we want as much time with you as we can get. We’ll be there soon, Daniel! Happy birthday.

We love you,
Mom (and dad, Zach & Bekah)

On the way to church…

20140105-104031.jpg

Hot coffee and bling on a cold, gray day. I hope the little things make you smile today.

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